Sunday, 5 July 2009 - 4:07 pm

Guest Post: Gotta Have Faith

Just when the clouds started to thicken overhead, one of the offroaders got a flat. There was no time to fix it, so we all piled out.

I was the first one to spot the church, well the steeple actually. I pointed it out to the others and we headed that way to seek shelter from the rain we knew was coming.

We all stopped and stared in wonder when we got there. All the stained glass windows were intact and the colors hid the dirty streaks left by the rain.

The church looked so normal. I think we all expected to see a priest pop out to welcome us to mass as the door opened. The smiled disappeared from my face as I realized it wasn’t a priest. Well, I suppose once he was, but now he was a shambler.

We were too close to run away, so we had to fight him. We shoved Nugget and Dillion behind us and got our weapons out as the shambler lurched towards us. I looked into his slack face above the white collar, a big mistake. I could picture how his face would look if he was alive, welcoming his flock to his church. I froze.

Thankfully Ben and Thorpe had no problem fighting a dead priest. They ended him quickly. We all turned to the church but no more followed the priest out.

I don’t know who headed to the doors first but we all stepped inside as quickly as we could. We were greeted by silence. We listened for the tell-tale sounds of more shamblers dragging themselves around in the darkness of the church but heard nothing, not even our own held breaths.

We carefully walked down the aisle, looking down each pew for dangers. The main chapel was empty but when we arrived at the altar, we could see a door broken apart down off to the side.

We crept towards the door weapons ready. We smelled the blood before we saw the body, another priest torn apart by the shambler. I jumped a foot when I saw the body move. I realized the poor man was still alive and watched as Sally ran to him calling for Masterson.

Masterson took one look at the body, torn and bloody, and shook his head. There was nothing he could do. Sally tried to soothe the dying man, who whispered painfully, “Run, get out before he kills you.”

“Shhh, it’s okay, Father. He’s gone now. He’s in Heaven, at peace.” She said the words a priest would want to hear. I was surprised at first, then I remembered the rosary she wore around her wrist.

“What Heaven? God has forsaken his children.” Tears filled my eyes at his last words, as this servant of God lost his faith. Sally continued to murmur words of comfort of God and hope, but this priest, this forgotten child of God, couldn’t hear them anymore.

I prayed that his one moment of doubt wouldn’t stop him from getting into the Heaven he devoted his life to; somehow, that didn’t seem fair.

Masterson tried to comfort Sally when we all heard it, a noise outside in the chapel. Someone or something was out there. We all gathered our weapons and headed to see if it was friend or foe. We found him raiding the sacrificial wine. He didn’t seem surprised to see us, didn’t seem to care.

“Is he gone to see his God now?” the man asked indicated the room behind us.

“Yes, who are you?” I asked the man who continued to guzzle the wine.

“Name’s Jake. Is the other gone too?” We looked at the front doors where he was pointing and knew he was talking about the shambler. I nodded.

Jake sighed deeply, “Well at least I don’t have to feel bad about breaking my promise to stay sober if they’re both gone, anyway.”

“Isn’t there anyone else?” I asked him, surprised others hadn’t taken refuge here.

“Nope, not anymore, not even that guy.” Jake pointed at the crucifix above the alter before continuing. “There’s a basement used as a shelter for the homeless. We had a full house until a few days ago, when Father Marco was attacked while he was outside trying to find people who need help. No good deed goes unpunished, I guess.” Jake gave a flat smile. As he drank he seemed to want to talk more and more so we let him ramble on.

“He managed to stumble in and Father Anthony tried to save him. It was no use, though. His wounds were bandaged but the Sickness got in and he died a couple of nights ago. We moved him into the office over there and Father Anthony was giving him last rites when he became that zombie thing.”

“We call them shamblers,” I interrupted.

“Whatever. Father Anthony was able to get away from him and ran into the church yelling for everyone to run and save themselves. Bastards did just that, never stopping to make sure the good Father was with them. They fought their way to the door running and shoving to escape. I grabbed the priest’s arm and tried to pull him with me, but he wouldn’t go. He told me he knew that Father Marco was still in there somewhere and he was going to save him. I begged him to leave. I’ve seen those, uh, shamblers before and knew that there was nothing inside them but hunger. He wouldn’t budge.

“Guess his faith saved our lives; well, mine anyway. Just as we heard Father Marco crashing through the office, we heard the rain and the screams of the cowards who ran out earlier. None of them came back inside so I figure the rain got ’em all.

“Course we were trapped with that thing. Father Anthony shoved me towards the basement door and ordered me to lock myself in. He ran the other way to distract Father Marco. Luckily that basement had a good strong door and I was able to barricade it.

“Looks like Father Anthony managed to get back to his office and lock himself in, but the whole time he was talking to Father Marco, trying to find the human inside. He must’ve realized it was a waste of time though, because I could hear him through the vent praying and calling for God to save us.

“I heard the door being torn apart and then Father Anthony screamed ‘Run, Jake!.’ After that, he just screamed and screamed.” Jake paused and gulped down the rest of the wine. He rooted around behind the alter until he found another bottle.

“I tried, I swear, I tried to get to Father Anthony. I started to tear down my barricade until the screaming stopped. Then I just froze, didn’t matter though, that shambler smelled me or something. He started trying to open the door and I piled back my barricade. Ain’t never been so scared before. The door’s strong, built to survive during a natural disaster. But another day or two, it wouldn’t have mattered. He would have gotten in and I would have died. Guess you saved me.”

He didn’t actually say thank you, not that any of us cared. We shivered at his gloomy words and heard the rain begin.

Jake finished the second bottle and staggered unsteadily to the office. We didn’t want to disturb his goodbye, so we let him go by himself. He lurched out carrying Father Anthony in his arms. “He saved me twice, once from the bottle and once from the shambler. He wouldn’t want to become one of those things. I am taking him outside to let the rain have him.”

I tried to stop him but Ben held me back. I turned on him and said, “He can’t do it without getting hurt or killed.”

“He knows, Faith,” Ben explained in a soft voice. I understood then. He knew. Hell, he  was counting on it.

“Shoulda died years ago,” Jake said. “Shoulda crawled into a bottle and died but Father Anthony saved me, gave me a job and a home at this church. I got no reasons to stick around anymore. Besides, maybe God didn’t get the message that things are fucked up down here. I’ll be sure to tell Him. Take the supplies from downstairs. Bye.” Jake smiled at us and headed out in the rain.

Despite the pain being inflicted on him, he managed to close the door behind him, holding Father Anthony lovingly at his side. We braced for the screams that never came.

We all sat listening to the rain for a few moments. It was beautiful behind the stained glass windows. We went into the basement to see what supplies we could use and were shocked.

There was so much food and water we would be able to stock up our packs to the brim. Masterson was delighted at the medical supplies he found. There was even a camp stove we could use to have a warm meal for once.

Delighted, we put together a stew with rice and found packages of chocolate cake for dessert. We dragged everything upstairs, not wanting to be trapped down there if trouble came.

“Too bad we didn’t find this in time for the birthday party,” I said before biting into the chocolate cake.

Dillion grinned like a kid and said, “I love cake. I didn’t think I’d ever have cake again. How did we find cake?”

Matt grinned, “You just gotta have Faith.” He winked at me as the others groaned or chuckled. I sighed; if I could have reached, I would’ve smacked him.

[Guest post by Rissa Watkins.]